MSC Intensifies North Sea Clean-up

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

January 4, 2019

MSC Zoe. Photo: MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

MSC Zoe. Photo: MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company

Switzerland-based global container shipping and a company MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company said that it is directly taking over more of the clean-up of German and Dutch waters and beaches, following the recent container spill from the cargo ship MSC Zoe.

The world's second-largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity said in a press release that in close collaboration with local authorities, it is now working with a number of salvage companies to add momentum to the quick response started on 2 January.

In some locations, MSC is also taking over contracts initiated by local authorities as part of an emergency reaction to the incident, in order to provide a sustained and effective response operation. That operation is being coordinated through a single specialized response company, appointed by MSC and its insurers, in order to centralise and monitor the cleaning work.

The clean-up is concentrated around the Dutch and German coastlines and notably on Frisian islands such as Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.

Specialist equipment is being used to accelerate the clean-up process. For example, fast boats for picking up and towing drifting containers and sonar-tracing vessels for underwater recovery. These boats use a hydraulic, remote-operated grab function to pick up the boxes.

On 3 January on Terschelling alone, some eight containers of materials were collected from the shores of the island, with an industrial raking machine deployed to comb the beaches. A drone was used to scan the area and plan detailed follow-up cleaning.

Some materials collected from the Frisian coast have already been passed on for recycling and for use as building insulation. It is expected that all material collected from the islands as part of the official clean-up operation will be sent to the mainland for storage and treatment.

While a number of containers have already been collected in the aftermath of the incident, for containers still at sea, MSC is grateful for fly-over operations by Germany’s Havariekommando, in order to try to determine the location of boxes within German waters. MSC will ensure proper communication of operational updates to the authorities in both Germany and the Netherlands.

MSC is not giving a detailed account of the cargo on board to the general public at this time, since such matters are often confidential between the shipping line and its customers.

"However, in relation to some reports from authorities about dangerous cargo, we would like to inform the public that we are not aware at this time of any public injury from the cargo in MSC-carried containers spilled overboard," the release said.

Members of the public are nonetheless advised to exercise caution when encountering containers or other materials on the beaches and to report any discoveries to local authorities, in order that they can relay the information to those in charge of the clean-up operation and avoid any unnecessary personal injury.

Caution should be applied in particular for any containers or drums which are labelled as having hazardous content and these should only be touched under supervision of the authorities or clean-up experts.

"MSC is grateful to the civic actions of many members of the public, who have voluntarily assisted with cleaning beaches. We ask volunteers to work in collaboration with authorities and officially-appointed response companies," it said.

"Accidents of the scale of MSC Zoe in the North Sea are rare, but when they do occur, MSC responds quickly. We are committed to supporting this clean-up operation as long as required," it added.

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